Cañon City Council’s Safe Outdoor Space presentation cut short during latest homeless talk – Canon City Daily Record

On Thursday, city staff and Cañon City Council members participated in less than five minutes in an interactive presentation of a draft ordinance authorizing temporary shelters when a room full of angry citizens completely filled it. closed.

The meeting was standing room only, filled with residents who said they were ready to help those who want to help themselves but are tired of people living outside the system, won’t follow the rules, show up in their yards wielding machetes and other weapons all day, and entering their properties, leaving human waste, used needles and trash in their path.

Cañon City Council files safe outdoor spaces ordinance after residents raise concerns

The proposed order would allow organizations to create a temporary shelter or overnight shelter, known as a safe outdoor space. Council passed first reading in April but tabled second reading in May after residents raised concerns. Council asked residents to bring their ideas and solutions to Thursday’s meeting.

The city introduced a PollEverywhere app, where people attending and watching online could participate in the live poll, but it didn’t go beyond the first two questions.

“We’re dead in the water right now with the presentation because of questions from the audience,” Pro Tem Mayor John Hamrick said. “We’re trying to make something on the fly here.”

Ashley Shepperly worked with other concerned citizens to prepare a presentation which was presented at the meeting.

“I’m not against helping the homeless, that’s not the subject of my presentation,” she said. “I think tent communities are not the solution. I think Cañon City can do better than that. The main reason is that they are not humane.”

She said a person who cares about their safety wouldn’t want to live in a tent. She also gave examples of other communities that have set up encampments, some only to see their homeless population grow.

“The point is if you build it, they will come,” Shepperly said. “They will come, if only to see what we are doing.”

She said we need more affordable housing and stop giving everything away for free.

“If we’re going to be offering services, I have no problem with that, but they could also give back to our community,” she said. “We need to help them help themselves and stop giving them something for nothing.”

Bill Raymer, who is the site manager for Journey Home, has the same homelessness issues on his property as everyone else.

“Thirty-three percent of people who have been placed in Journey Home in the last four years have been released because they don’t have to get behavior change because we’re constrained by fair housing,” said he declared. “So I don’t agree that housing is going to change behaviours; you have to talk about fair housing and your hands will be tied once you enter housing.”

He said there has to be accountability to the team that puts in place any type of project, such as admissions, needs assessments, service planning and making sure they meet the right conditions.

Hamrick said that with the proposed ordinance, the city is not trying to address homelessness or provide housing for people.

“We are not trying to establish a tent city,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is provide a temporary, time-limited place where people can find a bed. the city and the other prohibits sitting or lying on public roads.”

The City Council of Cañon approves the first reading for the creation of temporary shelters

The main purpose of the ordinance, he said, is to provide beds for weather emergencies, otherwise the camping ordinance cannot be enforced.

During the meeting, Cañon City Police Commander Tim Bell said the underlying issues driving homelessness need to be addressed.

“I would say the biggest problem we have with homelessness directly revolves around mental health and the issues of people who are not being treated,” he said. “They don’t have the ability or the desire to pursue treatment or medication, so that’s what we’re really dealing with.”

Also, the use of illegal narcotics is illegal, but the use of an illegal controlled substance is now a misdemeanor where it used to be a felony, resulting in virtually no jail time.

“It’s a bigger issue and from a law enforcement perspective a lot of what we can do, our hands are tied by what the legislation says we can do,” Bell said. .

Mannie Colon, a longtime Cañon City farmer who worked for the Colorado Mental Health Institute for 30 years, agreed that mental health issues need to be addressed. When he started his work at the public hospital, there were 6,000 patients.

“They started letting them out for various reasons at community mental health centers to reduce the population,” he said. “…We let all these people out and the majority of those who had problems are now on the streets. … You think homelessness is a problem, mental health is the real problem.

Mayor Ashley Smith: Cañon City Tent City Fact Check

One woman, Meredith Johnson, has shared her story of losing her job and then her home in 2020.

“I’m someone who’s been homeless for a long time,” she said. “For me, it’s become difficult not only to find a job, but when you don’t have a house, you can’t shower, you can’t prepare to go to interviews, it’s all just overwhelming. . It’s just getting over you.”

After living in her car for a while, she moved into Journey Home in February with her young child.

“I am grateful to Loaves & Fishes and Journey Home for giving me a home and for all the resources they offer,” she said. “Being homeless for that long is scary, and if you didn’t have mental health issues at the time, you start accumulating them going through all of this.”

She never had to sleep in a tent, but she could see tents set up from her window at Journey Home.

“When we had that first really cold snowstorm, I think there were seven tents,” she said. “I remember looking out the window and thinking, ‘Thank God these people have a place to go’.”

Council is expected to review the ordinance at the June 20 meeting.

To watch Thursday’s meeting in full, visit https://www.facebook.com/canoncitygov.


What else is done:

  • The Combined Regional Communications Authority began tracking incidents involving homeless people in February
  • The CCPD and the FCSO are working on an intergovernmental agreement to allow additional patrols on the river promenade.
  • The CCPD and FCSO are working on an IGA to allow the CCPD to respond to calls and issue intrusions within a quarter-mile radius of the city limit in the county.